Communicating Visualizations without Visuals: Investigation of Visualization Alternative Text for People with Visual Impairments
Crescentia Jung, Shubham Mehta, Atharva Kulkarni, Yuhang Zhao, Yea-Seul Kim
View presentation: 2021-10-28T13:30:00Z GMT-0600 Change your timezone on the schedule page
Alternative text is critical in communicating graphics to people who are blind or have low vision. Especially for graphics that contain rich information, such as visualizations, poorly written or an absence of alternative texts can worsen the information access inequality for people with visual impairments. In this work, we consolidate existing guidelines and survey current practices to inspect to what extent current practices and recommendations are aligned. Then, to gain more insight into what people want in visualization alternative texts, we interviewed 22 people with visual impairments regarding their experience with visualizations and their information needs in alternative texts. The study findings suggest that participants actively try to construct an image of visualizations in their head while listening to alternative texts and wish to carry out visualization tasks (e.g., retrieve specific values) as sighted viewers would. The study also provides ample support for the need to reference the underlying data instead of visual elements to reduce users’ cognitive burden. Informed by the study, we provide a set of recommendations to compose an informative alternative text.